2023 Queensland Hall of Fame – Simon Black

The Brisbane Lions were the undisputed kings of the AFL in 2001-02-03, going back-to-back-to back to be one of only six teams in history to win three premierships in a row. And if ‘Emperor’ is the king of kings, as is colloquially suggested, then it’s ‘welcome to the AFLQ Hall of Fame Emperor Black’.

The ever-humble Black says otherwise, insistent it is an honour that should sit with captain Michael Voss. But the aggregate vote in the Lions’ Merrett-Murray Medal for the triple premiership era has Black (201) ahead by a whisker from Voss (199), Nigel Lappin (179), Jason Akermanis (166.5) and Marcus Ashcroft (157.5).

It’s split decision whichever way you look at it. Black, who played every game in the premiership treble, shared the Lions club champion award with Voss in 2001, won by three votes from Voss in 2002, and in 2003 it was Voss by a vote from Black and Luke Power. Voss polled 55 Brownlow Medal votes in 2001-02-03 and Black polled 49 votes. Voss finished equal 3rd in the Brownlow in 2001-02 and equal 7th in 2003, while Black went equal 13th in 2001, won it in 2002 and was equal 20th in 2003. Voss was All-Australian 2001-02-03 and Black was All-Australian in 2001-02-04.

It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child – a question that doesn’t warrant an answer. Black or Voss? Voss or Black? Two of the very, very best of all-time. But irrefutable is the fact that Black sits more than comfortably in the AFLQ Hall of Fame.

The silky-skilled left footer shares with Jimmy Bartel, the honour of being the only players in AFL history to win a Brownlow Medal, a Norm Smith Medal, a premiership medal and play 300 games.

Born in Mt Isa, Black sits alongside the likes of golfing legend Greg Norman, tennis great Pat Rafter, five-time Olympic swimming coach Bill Sweetenham, award-winning actress Deborah Mailman and rugby league star Scott Prince in the mining town’s ‘Celebrity Superstars’.

Growing up in Perth, home town of mother Fran, Black was a Little Athletics state champion over 800m and 1500m and played junior basketball. Father Ray, who has passed away, was a New Zealander, but he resisted the lure of rugby union and was drawn to the team aspects of Australian football. He played at Bull Creek-Leeming but at 15 a back injury kept him out of the game for 18 months. Still, in his draft year he was an All-Australian Under 18 selection.

Rated #1 at the AFL Talent Camp in decision-making, measured via psychomotor testing which looks at reflexes and vision, he was tipped to go in the top dozen in the 1997 National Draft and was a mega-steal when claimed by the Lions with pick #31 in a gold-star year in which they also picked up Luke Power (#5), Shane O’Bree (#10), Marcus Picken (#58) and Beau McDonald (#73).

He was one of the AFL’s very best players during a career in which he played a club record 322 games for the Lions from 1998-2013. His 174 career wins, 22 ahead of second-placed Power, is a club record that most likely will never be beaten.

He polled 184 career Brownlow votes to rank 15th all-time in 2022, and in addition to his efforts of the premier era was 2nd in 2007-08, 4th in 2009 and 6th in 2004. In the first decade of the 21st century, from 2000-09, he was one of only six players to poll 100 Brownlow votes. He had 142 to lead Chris Judd (132), Adam Goodes (113), Brent Harvey (111), Ben Cousins (103) and Andrew McLeod (101).

A pillar in the famous ‘Fab Four’, with Voss, Lappin and Akermanis, the most dominant midfield in the game, he amassed a Lions-record 7580 possessions (average 23.5) which ranks 16th in the AFL all-time. His 39 possessions to win the Norm Smith Medal in the 2003 grand, a sublime performance, is the equal all-time AFL record.

He was not big and not quick across the grass but everything else he did was lightning fast, astonishingly smart and disarmingly strong. He could win the ball from a contest like very few, had an unerring left-foot that could find a leading forward anywhere, and an incomparable 360-degree vision, game sense and decision-making ability. 

How he slipped through to pick #31 in the draft is incomprehensible in hindsight but from his first ‘official’ game for the Lions against Fremantle in the 1998 Ansett Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, he was a star. Lions co-captain in 20077-08 and a long-time member of the leadership group, he had eight top three finishes in the club champion award from 1999-2012, going 10th-7th-1st-1st-2nd– 3rd-11th-1st-5th-2nd-2nd-2nd-10th.

A recurring nightmare to WA football as he flourished on the east coast, he was named WA Sports Star of the Year in 2002 and was inducted into the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2017, when they claimed, “he has a powerful claim to be the best player produced by the WA football system in the 30 years of the national era”.

In June 2019 it was announced that he would be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2019 but, unable to attend due to overseas filming of ‘Australian Survivor’, he joined the AFL elite in 2020.

One of football’s five-star people, humble beyond humble, adored, admired and respected by teammates and opposition alike, he was the second Brisbane player and the 65th in AFL history to play 300 games in 2012. He played his 319th game in Round 12, 2013 in Perth to break Marcus Ashcroft’s Brisbane club record and hung up the boots after his 322nd game in Round 21 against GWS at the Gabba. He had 28 possessions, a team-high five clearances and three goal assists to earn two Brownlow votes in a 10-goal win. A star to the very end.

He was an assistant-coach under Justin Leppitsch with the Lions in 2014-15-16 and had five seasons on Craig Starcevich’s Lions AFLW coaching panel, sharing in the 2021 first premiership before stepping away after the 2022 Grand Final loss to Melbourne.

Married since 2010 to Catherine, he is father to sons Lachlan (12) and Lucas (9), who play at the Mayne Tigers, and daughter Evie (6). After a brief stint reading the sports news on Channel 10, he has been a Triple M commentator at the Gabba since 2018. And since 2017, still giving back to the game, he has headed up the Simon Black Football Academy, offering student athletes exposure to elite AFL coaches and players while also pursuing university qualifications in business and sports development and a pathway to success outside football.

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